The past has always haunted the present on The Vampire Diaries, but in Thursday's penultimate episode, the emotional ghosts will take corporeal form as Bonnie's plan to drop the veil between realms draws ire from both sides of this reality.
But how did the writers decide who should return to Mystic Falls? That was just one of the questions I posed to TVD's never-busier executive producer Julie Plec, who will be juggling (at least) two shows next fall now that TVD is coming back and The Originals has been picked up!
ETonline: First of all, congrats on getting your first official spin-off picked up! Have you started stockpiling Red Bull in anticipation?
Julie Plec: Thank you. Apparently Diet Coke reached out to our props guy and said, "Based on Julie's Twitter feed, it appears she's a fan of our product, so let us know if we can give her anything." That's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me in my entire professional life. So, I'm ready. [laughs]
ETonline: Now that you have some distance, what's your opinion of season four?
Plec: That's the million dollar question. I'll be honest, as you know, I get a lot of grief through the social media universe. Big and bold opinions, so it can be hard to sift through those to get a sense of what's working and what's not, but if I separate myself completely from that universe and look at this season, I'm really happy with it. We knew that everything we were doing felt really fresh -- Elena with an entirely new life as a vampire, we had almost a reboot to the love triangle, we had a really rich and interesting storyline for Bonnie, we had strange villains we hadn't pursued before that let us slow-play the mythology over the season and we had great things happening that built up to graduation. I feel really proud of this season.
ETonline: Arguably the success of this year depended on having an actor who could bring the excellent writing to life. And honestly, if The CW was ever going to break into the Emmy race, Nina Dobrev is the one to do it.
Plec: Right? It was definitely scary because we knew the entire season hinged on Nina's ability to dig into some deep places she hadn't had to dig before. Had she not spent the last three years successfully playing 960 characters, we would have been a little more worried [laughs]. For me, there was a moment in the season premiere where the director called me to say the entire crew burst into applause after he shot it.
ETonline: Which scene?
Plec: It was the scene where she's trying to get the blood on the floor while locked in the cell. And when she finally tastes it, a single perfect tear rolls down the side of her face. He said it was so spectacular and harrowing and exciting when they shot it, that the crew just burst into spontaneous applause. That started the year off so well. Then, I got a call after the read-through of episode 15, Stand By Me, which is a personal favorite of mine because it was so important. Apparently the performance she brought to the read through was so astonishingly good, everyone knew we were doing something special.
ETonline: Clearly season four was all about Elena's journey, so what are you excited for fans to see in the final two episodes with her character?
Plec: She goes through everything in the next two weeks. She gets beaten down and broken and built back up and ripped apart and we get to see her kick some ass and see her smile -- and then it's still not over. More crazy sh*t hits the fan in the form of a pretty spectacular showdown between Katharine and Elena.
ETonline: The next two episodes see ghosts return to Mystic Falls. How much of a conversation was there about which characters should return?
Plec: If you look at the season as a whole, you'll realize every person we see again fits into the body. Knowing at the beginning of the year where we wanted to end, and how we wanted to end it, we made the season a lot about loss and feeling disconnected from the ones you love. Kol is in the previews, so we can talk about him -- he's an enemy who is very pissed that Elena had a hand in his death. He's coming back with an ax to grind. There's also, let's not forget, a lot of people who died over the year in the name of resurrecting Silas. As promised, that is going to have some ugly consequences.
ETonline: Given the number of people who died, what kind of conversations did the writers have about how big the Mystic Falls graduating class could and should be?
Plec: [laughs] We had so many conversations about how big the graduating class of Mystic Falls should be! I mean, it's a small town, there were probably only 40 seniors and we've killed 20 of them! But it's not just the citizens of Mystic Falls who go to the high school, small towns like that often have multiple towns feeding into the school, which I didn't know. In the end, we settled on a number that made the football field we filmed on look really cool.
ETonline: With The Originals, many fans are wondering how you bring Matt & Rebekah and Klaus & Caroline's stories to a close. What can you say?
Plec: They are very, very simple and, I think, satisfying. I'm sure there are lots of people who would like to see more, but it's satisfying and very enjoyable. The thing is, I watched Buffy and Angel. I used to love on Angel when we'd get visits from friends from the other show. Plus, Angel didn't stop loving Buffy just because he was on a new show. It took him a long-ass time to get over her, so this is by no means the end of Klaus' feelings for Caroline. If anything, it's a new beginning.
ETonline: How judicious will you be with the frequency of crossover episodes?
Plec: The logistics of that are so complicated that it's all about the complications of trying to pull it off. I think it'll be a treat that we can give the audience every now and then. We haven't broken the season of The Originals yet, but I would love to be able to move pieces back and forth.
ETonline: Lastly, you're coming off the show's biggest season ending cliffhanger so far. How does this year's stack up?
Plec: I think that we deliver pretty damn well, truth be told. It's a double whammy cliffhanger, and this is, from an emotional point of view, one of my favorite finales we've done. Bold and potentially devastating.
The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW